Insights from a group camping junkie.
Group camping is my jam. Isn’t that a lot of work, they ask. Not really, I respond. With some advance planning and Google Drive spreadsheets, you can avoid the game of Subaru-packing Tetris or last-minute, fifty-item grocery runs. When everyone pitches in, everyone wins. I coordinate a stress-free annual trip to my remote mountain hometown for a few dozen friends coming from across a tri-state area as well as an annual pilgrimage to 4 Peaks with my string-music-loving, camping family of ten-plus. Here are some next-level hacks our crew has honed over the years.
1. Division of Labor
Wherever you put down stakes, the menu du jour will elevate the locale. To master group meals insert a little technology in the planning stage with a group spreadsheet that can be shared and edited in real time. Plan for two family-style meals per day: breakfast (more likely brunch at festivals) and dinner. In the meal portion of your spreadsheet, each family or two- to three-person subgroup signs up to cook an a.m. or p.m. meal on one day. Remember to include a column for meal theme. (It takes the olé right out of the festivities if you eat tacos four out of six nights.)
2. Kitchen Patrol
A stellar kitchen setup is clutch. The ideal dish system includes two large-yet-shallow plastic bins set on a long folding table. Put campsuds in one bin. Fill each with warm water from a solar shower. Air dry dishware on a microfiber towel. And, please, pack a sponge with a scouring pad. As with cooking responsibilities, consider rotating dish duty to ensure equity.
3. Go Green
Don’t leave the food pyramid behind when you leave civilization. Bodies still need vegetables. Flexible plastic cutting boards and one great chopping knife go a long way. You can show them how it’s really done by chopping, bagging and freezing fresh veggies in advance.
4. Keep Your Cool
Ice takes up precious cooler space. Instead, put dry ice in the bottom of each cooler. You must then add a layer of cardboard or the food will get freezer burn. The day before departure, put all the beer that is over six percent ABV in your freezer. (Physics prevents high-alcohol beer from exploding and the cold brews will supplement the dry ice.)
5. Let There Be Light
People are clumsy. Ten solar lights placed strategically around camp can prevent twice as many expletives being hurled at tent stakes, logs, coolers, etc. Do the math.